$50 Million A Year For Unused Days

UPDATED:  Ducan got $50,000, denounces practice after the fact.

Today's education news includes coverage of a report from the BGA about over-spending at CPS on sick and vacation days, as well as a couple of other items (Phyllis Lockett on the hot seat for disrespecting neighborhood schools, concerns among high school parents about the longer day -- see previous post.)  Happy Friday!

Cash-strapped CPS spends millions on workers for unused sick and vacation days Sun Times: The cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools system spends tens of millions of dollars annually on a perk that few other employers offer: cash to departing employees for unused time off. Since 2006, the district paid a total $265 million to employees for unused sick and vacation days.

Teachers can't thrive as 'lone rangers' Catalyst (commentary):  In my dozen-plus years as a social studies teacher at Thornton Fractional South High School in south suburban Lansing, Ill., I’ve become well practiced in the art of doing more with less.

Phyllis Lockett Slams 'Unfortunate'Chicago Public Schools Huffington Post: In a letter to the Sun-Times, Sarah Hainds of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) argues that Lockett's statements were out of line, and representative of widely-held opinions that Chicago's public schools aren't worth saving.

Neighbors: Site not fit for new school Tribune: Chicago Public Schools' plan to build an elementary school on polluted property in the shadow of the Chicago Skyway and an expiring coal-fired power plant near the Indiana border is raising the ire of parents in the working-class neighborhood.


Leave a comment
  • I have a question for those teachers who voted for the longer school day. How do you feel about CPS trying to take away your sick days?

  • It is always good to read the original source in relation to a story so I recommend that people on this blog go to http://www.bettergov.org/ill-gotten_gains_at_cps_unused_sick_days_pay_off/?categoryid=1 and read the Better Government Association's story. I agree that CPS should not be paying out the kind of money it has been which was very well documented by the BGA. While the BGA did not explicitly make a recommendation for reforming the current practice, I thought the BGA implicitly endorsed the a "use it or lose it" policy for sick and vacation days to hold down costs and limit future obligations.

    I think it is important that sick time be able to be banked by employees to use if they develop a chronic health condition, so I don't agree with the use it or lose it concept. One way CPS could deal with this issue is to allow after the accumulation of 300 or so sick days that the majority of the banked days are converted into paying for a private short-term disability insurance policy. This policy would be required to be used up before the employee could seek disability benefits from the CTPF and potentially reduce payout costs for the fund. I believe employees should be paid out for unused vacation time when they leave CPS.

    The current practice of rewarding employees who are lucky enough not to have had a chronic health problem with checks at the end of their careers with CPS is not right. But equally it is not right to move to some type of use to or lose it system where employees are effectively forced fairly fast to seek disability benefits from CTPF. It's also not right to have applied these payouts to the pension enhancement program either. But then it's also not right that there have been cases were higher paid administrators are given pay bumps their last year with CPS, but the BGA has not yet investigated that issue.

    I would also add that the BGA report named four former CPS administrators by name with the money they were paid by CPS based on accumulated sick and vacation days. These administrators were Arne Duncan, Ascencion Juarez, Barbara Eason-Watkins, and Scott Feaman. The BGA had the same information for 296 other CPS administrators who were paid out $100,000 or more. Clearly, if the BGA is going to start naming names it should be naming all the names, it would have been easy to attach an excel spread sheet with all of this information. I know there are many folks on this blog that are cheering that Arne Duncan's payout was made public, but if BGA doesn't out the others I think it was wrong.


  • I'd just like to clarify that many central office workers are not eligible for getting paid out for sick days, but they do get paid out for vacation days. I was non-union at CPS for nearly 10 years and wasn't eligible to get paid out for all the sick days I had accrued, though if I were more veteran I might have been eligible (can't remember the HR policy).

  • @ Rod Estvan: "But then it's also not right that there have been cases were higher paid administrators are given pay bumps their last year with CPS, but the BGA has not yet investigated that issue."

    This kind of production by BGA has made me less impressed by them. They don't seem to be living up to their role as watchdog. Then, the mainstream media spins the BGA reports on top of that. There is so much ripe for the picking under the rock that is CPS.

  • Duncan denounces $50K payout he received from Chicago schools for unused sick days POLITICO http://ow.ly/8RzaD #5bb

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    He can GIVE IT BACK !

  • CPS , although it employs mostly women, does not pay any maternity leave. It was a long time ago, but if I had not had sick days, I would have not been paid for mine.

    Someone should figure out how much money it would have cost CPS to pay for a teacher's substitute if she had taken her 10 sick days every year. Yes, paying out that teacher is still more expensive, but it's not the whole picture.

    One more thing ... it is unfair to change the rules at the end of one's career. If I have 125 sick days , and I am retiring in the next 2 years, there is no way I can use them all without a sick leave. It's not fair to just take them away from me. Some kind of protection needs to be in place for people in this scenario like myself.

    And finally , people forget that teachers only get 2 weeks paid vacation time NO MATTER HOW MANY YEARS they have worked. After 34 years with his company, my husband was up to 7 weeks paid vacation per year. Saving our sick days is one way we make up for that , as something we get at the end in lieu of all those years of not getting vacation time paid.

    The whole picture is more than what was reported !

  • The comments made by Lockett were and are completely true. While I can't hold it against the staff at neighborhood high schools, who daily risk their safety and sanity by working there, how many people willingly send their kids to ANY neighborhood high school? No one I know. Not that I think charters are much better nor would I send my kids to one. But let's be real people, neighborhood high schools, with their average ACTs of 14, 15, 16 aren't preparing many, if any, kids for college or trade school. The best of them are places you won't get shot. The piece Lockett missed though is that if CPS was funded properly, meaning huge, huge, huge sums of money to staff our schools with low performing "meets'" percentages below 75% and drastically smaller class sizes, perhaps then kids wouldn't be arriving at schools like Farragut, Robeson, Senn or the like with a 3rd or 4th grade reading level. CPS as a whole is not a place most parents with aspirations of college for their kids choose. Unless it is magnet, SEES, or one of the rare truly great neighborhood schools. I don't think she should apologize at all. And I hate charters so it isn't because I am a charter fan.

  • In reply to teacherparent:


    "But let's be real people, THE PARENTS OF CHILDREN WHO ATTEND neighborhood high schools, with their average ACTs of 14, 15, 16 aren't preparing many, if any, kids for college or trade school.

    Trade the "superior" teachers at Northside, Noble Street, Payton, or (Franny) Parker, with those at Harlan, Hope, Bogan, or Bowen and you'll have the same results.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    I am the poster from above. I totally agree that this is not the teacher's fault. Neighborhood high schools don't prep kids for success because they can't. The raw material they have to work with isn't workable in many cases. I am in no way blaming teachers who have to work there. Still, any parent who wants something better for their kids is not going to send their kid to a neighborhood high school. You could have rockstar teachers at Harlan,and probably do, for example, but it won't change the fact that the students aren't going anywhere. I'd sooner cut off my arm than send my kid to our neighborhood high school.

  • CTU responds to BGA report on ‘unused’ sick days unfairly characterizes teachers and paraprofessionals

    CHICAGO - The Chicago Teachers Union released the following statement in response to a Better Government Association report about the Chicago Public School (CPS) employees’ use of unused sick days:

    “The BGA report on unused sick day pay offs unfairly characterizes teachers and paraprofessionals as abusing the system. It is not an abuse. Teachers are given only 10 sick days per year. They are not paid for maternity leave and therefore must either accumulate unused sick days or schedule their births during the summer. Our members only become eligible for this benefit if they work 20 or more years or reach age 65; and, most of them do not get the huge payouts that the top Board officials have received.

    “It should also be noted that teachers and paraprofessionals who get this ‘deferred compensation,’ are the ones who do all they can to never miss a day of work. These are the same professionals who come early, stay late and are now being asked to work even longer hours, while their benefits and pensions are under attack.

    “This policy has existed since 1968. In the 1980s sick day accumulation was used by the Board of Education as a way of deferring compensation, and was eventually given to teachers and other professional staff in lieu of raises.
    “The BGA report puts teachers in a Catch 22—if they use too many sick days they are given low ratings for bad attendance and if they accumulate too many they are falsely characterized as ‘greedy’ and ‘abusing the system.’ You can’t have it both ways. The Chicago Teachers Union would be very hesitant to change the current system unless there’s some other way to ensure that people who work in our schools can receive paid maternity leave or those who need a surgery can take care of their health without worrying how they will pay their bills.”

  • Lists

    Tomorrow I think I will dig out all my pay-stubs ,41 years of pay-stubs to be precise.I want to know how much money I would have made if I used all my sick leave.I retired with 310 sick days, but I actually accumulated 540 over my tenure.During the last 15 years I took 6 days off, and since I hit 315 in 2001 nobodyThanked me for returning those 130 days unused. Most of my friends called me A fool for letting the Board get over on me like that but I have something called old school work ethic.
    Pain didn’t stop me from work and I am proud to announce I never missed a Day due to weather . Twice I was already at school before 6 am when it was called off for the day. To me sick days were a disability policy in case I got hurt or sick.It was one less thing to worry about. I honestly was surprised I even lived long enough to cash out.
    I am proud to be on the list especially since the board forgot to send me
    a thank you for 10 years of service, misplaced my certificate for 20 years
    left me off the 30 year list and ignored me after 40 years. Strange they
    seem to remember me now.

  • In reply to rbusch:

    Congratulations on working for 41 years ! YOU are to be commended, not treated the way you were !

    I will not reach your number of years worked, but at 33 years , have accumulated 200 sick days, or the equivalent of 20 years of perfect attendance. I would have more, but I used up my days back in the 80s having 2 children, seeing as CPS has no paid maternity leave ( then or NOW ).
    You also worked for 41 years getting only 2 weeks paid vacation per year. In no corporate world is that happening. People still think teachers get paid all summer , because deferred pay is so misunderstood. Bet CPS didn't pay you interest on your money while they were banking it for you either !

  • In reply to 30-Yr. Vet:

    There are a few issues with the sick day policy. First, it is out of the norm for private-sector jobs. Second, it is a way for the politicians and administrators to hide the cost of contract concessions to the union. I agree there needs to be some transitional fairness, but this is the sort of hidden benefit that politicians cannot be trusted to handle.

  • In reply to WestLooper:

    Kind of depernds on what private sector jobs you are talking about. Why is it ok for losers in the private sector get big bonuses and golden parachutes, even if they failed the organization and help drove it to the ground and causing greater harm. Seems to be the order of the day.

  • I have a question for those teachers who voted for the longer school day. How do you feel about CPS not paying you next year (or your school) any additional money for the 7 1/2 hour day, thru a raise or step and lane increases?

  • I have a question for those teachers who voted for the longer school day. How do you feel about CPS putting all teachers on merit pay and you can only get a raise if your principal likes you? P.S.- I was at the last CTU House of Delegates meeting and there are five major strike issues that the CTU and CPS are far apart on. All CTU members should talk to their school delegates so they can fill them in on what is really happening. The pay out of sick days is the first attack by Emperor Emanual to break the CTU during contract negotiations.

  • No parent who has ever sent a child to school knowing he was sick, getting over a cold, coming down with something, etc. should be questioning the need for school teachers and staff to be provided sick time. Schools are the the most germ laden environment in which to work. Yet teachers were also assailed and accused of abuse by Duncan during his tenure for taking sick days. So you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.
    I wonder if people have noted the vagueness of the reporting here; I think it is important to clarify that you do not get to keep sick days if you are let go, only if you retire from the Board, - or - if you go to another branch of government. This means that since the City took over the public school system, all of the City Hall mopes they've sent to Central Office (and sometimes jettsoned from there into the area offices) have effectively had their City government benefit obligations transferred to the debt sheet of the public school system. How nice for the City. And the better to sandbag the schools with the blame for the fiscal 'mismanagement' of footing the bill when it comes due.
    I have asked more than once in this forum whether there a special reason that office administrators downtown get the same amount of sick leave as teachers who are with kids every day (whom you greet without your own personal store of Kleenex and hand sanitizer at your peril - ask high school teachers who are assigned 3-5 different classrooms a day how pricey that is) And has been stated above, teachers do not accrue vacation time, but admin/office staff who are now under this rule change still get to walk with their vacation days, and these are paid out regardless of whether you retired or were let go.
    Lastly, I find it ironic that the very people who are fuming about the 'abuse' of your child's teacher faithfully being at the classroom door every morning are the very ones who have hired out of towners, career changers and a variety of people who apparently couldn't make it in the professions for which they actually have credentials, and these people are immediately given the same number of vacation days as the local principal who has been working for the district for thirty years. This has been going on downtown for a long time now.

  • OK. Why are we missing the big point? Many of us do not take days off, so we can be at school and provide stability for students. Our schools data points are marked if we attend less than 95% of the time - that is within the vacation/sick days.

    I am an administrator and people have difficulty respecting my time off. I answer calls, e-mails, and I am called in. This is why I take limited amounts of time off, and I should be compensated. It will cost the Board a LOT more to pay for replacements while we're all out. I shudder to think about all of the people who might start using their sick days en masse over the next couple of years. What will you say when your child's teacher is out for 60 or 70 days or even worse the administrators.

  • Taking away the ability of either a teacher or an administrator to deal with a serious illness by effectively creating an insurance policy for that by accumulating sick time is wrong. It is also wrong for the school system to cash this out. When I left the system to work in the not for profit sector if I recall correctly I had only about 7 sick days stored because I had a major back injury and used up almost all of my banked days.

    The thing that is the worst part of all this is what has been done to the pension fund by allowing additional benefits to be paid out via the pension enhancement program. It has been an additional drain on that system as has been the cases where higher paid administrators are given pay bumps their last year with CPS.

    We all know teachers and administrators who have gotten cancer and have used up all their sick time because of the treatment. CPS should convert massive accumulated sick days into private short-term disability insurance policies from this time on. It should not rip employees off. I also suspect that current employees who lose real retirement benefits will litigate this issue and win.

    So any transformation has to hold harmless the expected benefits based on accumulated sick time of current employees. The big winners if CPS does not do this the right way will be the trial lawyers who will clean CPS's clock in legal fees. Does Mayor Emanuel really think he can just make this end by waving his hand by ordering it to end?

    As to the issue of those in the private sector who get post employment benefits via bonuses and golden parachutes, it is really very few people who get such packages. I got one because when I left the private sector to go back to education and work at CPS I had valuable information that could have been used by competitors and my firm wanted me to sign a non-competitive agreement. There are only so many people in a firm who have access to the secrets of the temple.

    One of the reasons public sector employment provided so many perks in the form of benefits, even before the sector became highly unionized, was because the pay scale was so low and the opportunity for advancement limited. Over the years with unionization the pay has gotten much better and the benefits relative to the private sector stayed high. It was shocking to me when I returned to the public sector after 14 years working in the private sector. I understand why much of the public can be whipped up by the BGA story but you can't fix problems the way the Mayor has proposed and not expect to face massive litigation.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Realistically, most people in the private sector take their days prior to leaving the company. In fact, many private companies will make you take the days within a certain period and bar you fom work if necessary.

    Additionally, if you take work off in the private sector, it does not disrupt operations, which in general is not true in education. Currently, it takes 3-4 months to activte CPS's disability payments. Many employees purchase short term.

    CPS will have to make a decision. Either they want adults at school everyday or they will have a sytem for ensuring high integrity continuation of services (not a strong suit).

    It should also be noted that the reason 52 week employees receive vacation days is because there are no calendared days off other than state/federal holidays. They have to use days to go on Christmas vacation or any other days.

  • Sick Time

    Nobody made me go to work every day that’s just the way I am.
    Until the very end I did not get sick or hurt. There were times when the flu
    Kept me home but I never infected anyone by going to work contagious .
    I disagree with Ron about the disability aspect of sick leave. Being married It was a comfort to all of us knowing illness or injury to the bread winner would not cause a real crisis .
    Pity was never on my mind . if the Board would just for once realize how
    something small and cheap like a mass resolution recognizing years of service would raise moral, Instead of a condescending attitude of loathing towards the classroom teachers perhaps things might have worked out differently.
    Well I am out of it now.

  • It's a shame that the general public is making such a huge deal out of teachers and administrators being able to accumulate sick time. We are in a catch 22 situation if we were to begin to take time off and actual use are sick time then there will be another article in the paper regarding teacher and administrator attendance! CPS and the general public can't have it both ways! As a CPS administrator, I have to notify my COS whenever I am out of the building whether it's taking a sick day or using a vacation day. I must get a request for a vacation day approved 2 weeks in advance! I also haven't taken a sick day in over 5 years!

  • Did Arne Duncan mention when he will be writing a check back to CPS for his $50,000 sick time payout? If he really wants to denounce the sick time payout policy, then he should return his sick time payout check with interest!

  • His pay out was for vacation days. All employees are (or were)entitled to vacation day payouts regardless of years of service. There is a cap to the number of days you can acummulate.

  • Thank you! Good teachers (and administrators) *hate* taking sick days, because it's an enormous disruption to students' education. If I miss a day in my classroom, I essentially need half of the next day to get kids back on track. My kids end up getting maybe half a day of instruction over those two days, and I won't do that to them unless I truly have no other choice. I can't just "use it" and put everything on hold for a day or two with no repercussions.

    I do agree that banked sick days shouldn't be used to game the pension system, but certainly a policy can be developed to limit that abuse without punishing teachers for being dedicated to their students.

  • fb_avatar

    when my members take sick days administrators punish them on orders from the law department. this is something to divert attention from the closing hearings and the fact that there are multiple bills now in springfield challenging rahm's power trip.

  • Have any of these details, nuances and contexts been included in the coverage of the BGA report in the mainstream media? I have seen none, but maybe I'm missing something. Why are reporters no intcluding these elements?

  • I am a veteran CPS teacher who is retiring in June. Yes, I have sick days! I saved my sick days and make no apologies to anyone. I have been encouraged by CPS administrators to come to work sick because some of the schools I worked in were so dangerous no subs would show up. When no subs came the teachers were forced to double or even triple up classrooms. Needless to say, my students would have missed a day of instruction if I took off. I took a year off for a maternity leave (I found my replacement) and did not use any sick days-my choice. I did wonder why my friends in private industry or those who worked for governmental agencies had paid maternity leave while we, at female dominated CPS, have NO paid maternity leave provisions.
    I am now a special education teacher who rarely takes a day off partly because there are no special education subs. Let’s not even start on the amount of money I have spent on materials, books, or students who do not have mittens or hats. CPS has no answer as to why employees like myself, with 38 years of experience, are only paid for two weeks of vacation. CPS has saved a lot of money by not paying for substitutes for me and now wants to balance its budget on my back! I love the children, like their parents, respect my immediate administrators but continue to despise my employer. I will miss the children but not the total lack of respect CPS exhibits towards its employees.

  • "I love the children, like their parents, respect my immediate administrators but continue to despise my employer."

    Yes. Me, too.

Leave a comment